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The Food of the Gods

Don’t assume that animals have forgiven us for the centuries we’ve spent destroying their habitats, poaching them for their fur and tusks and restraining them under leash and cage. Critters secretly hate us and are only waiting for the right moment to enact their revenge. That’s the underlying premise of the five films screening Saturdays in August as part of Cinefamily’s series, Holyfuckingshit: When Animals Attack. The ’70s saw an explosion of such films, which chronicled sudden eruptions of violence from heretofore innocuous creatures, including cockroaches (Bug, 1975), dogs (Day of the Animals, 1978) and even bunnies (Night of the Lepus, 1972), all of which screen here. Though the real fun is seeing oversized rodents devour Ida Lupino in The Food of the Gods (1976), or a pack of rhinoceros-sized rabbits storming the streets in Lepus, these low-budget quickies also reveal something deeper about mankind’s latent anxieties. While the tightly structured suspense of canonical films like Jaws and The Birds diverts our attention from those movies’ ecological implications, the hysteria of Day of the Animals — in which global warming provides the catalyst for normally docile forest animals to begin assaulting hikers — is a prescient reflection of our collective guilt regarding environmental abuse. Most striking of all is 1990s Shakma, screening on August 23. Imprisoned by scientists and aggravated to the point of insanity by medical experiments, the film’s homicidal (and frighteningly realistic) baboon is The Lion King’s Rafiki on PCP, a sinister flip side to the cuddly primates in Every Which Way But Loose and Dunston Checks In. Forget mutant rats, roaches and rabbits: Shakma doesn’t need embellishment to appear terrifying. Simply seeing the creature convulse within the empty confines of a sterile hospital is enough to chill one’s spine. Where the other films in the series tell us why we don’t belong in nature, Shakma is a visceral reminder of why nature should never belong to us. (Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre; Saturdays at 10 p.m., through Aug. 30. www.silentmovietheatre.com.)

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